Recognition of self vs non-self by macrophages?

Shahram Mori smori at
Sun Nov 13 23:38:39 EST 1994

Ian A. York (york at wrote:
: In article <39k5vf$70h at dns1.NMSU.Edu> smori at (Shahram Mori) writes:
: >
: >We all know that macrophages do not phagocytose everything that they come
: >across. If a free-flowing macrophage comes into contact with an antigen it
: >will pick it up. However it doesn't pick up 'normal' host cells that are
: >flowing in the blood. This would seem to require a way to differentiate
: >between the foreign and the self. It may be that there is also ( early in
: >development) pick up of self antigens but they go through the screening to
: >be removed just like T and B cells do early in life.

: 	It is true that macrophages do not phagocytose everything they 
: come across.  It is not, really, true that they make some kind of 
: self/non-self decision at this point.  However, I see that I may be 
: straying into semantics (not my original intention, I assure you.)  Other 
: systems can make a self/non-self decision for the macrophage.  For 
: example, things like complement systems activation, or antibody binding, 
: reslting in opsinization; the presence of bacterial-type membranes (help 
: me out here, somebody - I can't remember what it is in bacterial 
: membranes hat makes them an opsinin) enhances uptake.  BUT the crucial 
: point is that macrophages DO present self antigen.  And very 
: efficiently.  I inclded references on this in my previous post.

: Ian

What I was trying to get across is that macrophages come across a variety
of antigens all the time. There MUST be some mechanism ( Could be very
simple) that will inform the macrophage about the origin of the antigen.
If a free flowing macrophage comes across a foreign antigen and lets say a
T cell, the latter will be ignored. But how does it know? Probably through
cell-cell contact. It would make a lot more sense to educate the
macrophages what a self antigen is ( which is of a LIMITED number) than
educate them what a foreign antigen is ( as the latter is infinite). If
you taught a cell  all the possibilities of self antigens  that it
might come across, then everything else would be considered foreign to it.

Shahram Mori					   _/\_
Program in Molecular Biology			  _\  /_ Saskatoon/SK/CANADA
Dept. of chemistry and Biochemistry Box 3C	  \_  _/
NMSU  Las Cruces NM				    ||

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